“This phenomenon has always existed, but now the draft dodgers seem to have lost their shame. The mission we are all tasked with is to return shame to the cheeks of those who shirk the draft, and return pride to soldiers in service," IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said Tuesday at an army awards ceremony in Herzliya.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak agreed that society was becoming too complacent in its view of draft dodgers. “Those who enlist in the IDF and the fighters of the army’s reserve units are the ones who are worthy of being society’s true heroes,” the defense minister said.
Omri Evron, a 20-year-old draft-dodger from Tel Aviv, was one of the authors of a letter to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, which was signed by 250 high school students who declared they would not join the army because they refused to take part in “the occupation of the Palestinian territories and people”.
After refusing to enlist, Evron was sentenced to one month in prison, which he spent in isolation.
“I chose to go to prison rather than see the military’s mental health officer, as an act of political protest,” Evron said. “I recommend teens to look at their personal conscience as humans and citizens despite social norms, and choose not only what is acceptable and comfortable, but what seems morally right.
“The government doesn’t mind sending us off to useless wars, and the last war proved that despite our strong military force, the only solution is to fight for peace.
“Groups that don’t enlist are departmentalized by Israeli society’s power centers. It is unfortunate that a society, which pretends to be democratic, bases its ethos on an army.
“The reactions I get are mixed – some people react harshly, and even curse, but some accept my decision with understanding and curiosity,” Evron explained.
'Clerical positions in army boring'“Daniel”, a 19-year-old draft-dodger from Jerusalem, evaded the draft because he did not want to serve in a “boring” clerical position. Instead, he volunteered for national service at a hospital.
“It’s good that people don’t blindly enlist like in the past,” he said. He explained that he didn’t feel his contribution to the country would be significant if he were to serve in a clerical job.
“Everyone should decide for themselves what they want. That’s how it is these days, people consider whether to enlist or not. I think it’s a good thing that people think in advance whether they want to get into it or not. For example, the suicide rate in the first year is huge, and that is very disturbing. That tells me that people get themselves into it and end up in a place they can’t handle.
“I don’t feel like I’ve lost more than I have gained. The military is a little tough on draft-dodgers, but it seems unnecessary, in my opinion, for the country to invest energy in soldiers who don’t want to be soldiers. Those soldiers will be less effective. The army has to consider what use it has with people who are not interested in being a part of it,” he said.
Nahman is a 20-year-old yeshiva student from Jerusalem, who decided to refuse the draft on psychological grounds. He explained that since he studies and teaches abroad, and has to make several trips out of the country during the year, he decided to “get rid of the hassle of issuing exit permits each time”.
Nahman explained that many yeshiva students shirk the draft on psychological grounds so as not to commit chillul Hashem (desecration of God's name). “They want to arrive at the induction center with their heads held high, and declare that they ideologically refuse going to the army,” he said.
“We are regular, intelligent people, and we don’t enlist because it contradicts the Torah according to rabbis. We support Israel with our study of Torah.”
Neta Sela contributed to this article